Domestic Violence

How Women Experience Battering (Short Outline)


   How Women Experience Abuse  (full article)


Random Reinforcement & Domestic Violence


Conduct depends upon social definitions. Before people can take some action, they have to have some ideas about what kind of action to take and with whom.

“Why do they stay with their partners?” (the most common question)


People outside the situation of battering are quick to define the batterer as the deviant.

By contrast, battered women in the early stages of the relationship may not see the batterer’s actions as deviant or may define themselves as the deviant ones. Why do battered women stay in abusive relationships?

[1] Cultural expectations of women and their status within the nuclear-family.

[2] The socialization of women emphasizes the primary value of being a good wife and mother,even at the expense of personal achievement in other spheres of life.

[3] The patriarchal ordering of society assigns a secondary status to women, and provides men with ultimate authority, both within and outside the family unit.

[4] Economic conditions contribute to the dependency of women on men; in 1978 U.S. women earned, on the average, 58 percent of what men earned.

In sum, the position of women in U.S. society makes it extremely difficult for them to re­ject the authority of men and develop independent lives free of marital violence




  1. The appeal to the salvation ethic: This ra­tionalization is grounded in a woman’s desire to be of service to others NURSE SYNDROME. Abusing husbands are viewed as deeply troubled, perhaps “sick,” individuals, dependent on their wives’ nurturance for survival.

  1. The denial of the victimizer: This technique is similar to the salvation ethic, except that victims do not assume responsibility for solving their abusers’ problems. Women perceive battering as an event beyond the control of both spouses, and blame it on some external force. The violence is judged situational and temporary. By focusing on factors beyond the control of their abuser, women deny their husbands’ intent to do them harm, and thus rationalize violent episodes.

  1. The denial of injury: For some women, the experience of being battered by a spouse is so dis­cordant with their expectations that they simply refuse to acknowledge it.

  2. The denial of victimization: Victims often blame themselves for the violence, thereby neutralizing the responsibility of the spouse. Some felt it could have been avoided if they had been more passive and conciliatory.

provocation                   versus                 justification

But belief in provocation may diminish a woman’s capacity for retaliation or self-defense, because it blurs her concept of responsibility. A woman’s acceptance of responsibility for the violent incident is encouraged by an abuser who continually denigrates her and makes unrealistic demands.

5. The denial of options: This technique is com­posed of two elements: practical options and emotional options.

Practical options:

– alternative housing,

– source of income, and

– protection from an abuser

The belief of battered women that they will not be able to make it on their own-a belief often fueled by years of abuse and oppression-is a major impediment to [acknowledgment] that one is a victim and taking action.

Emotional options:

One huge belief is the belief that no one else can provide the victim with intimacy and companion­ship. The prospect of a lonely, celibate existence is often too frightening to often repeatedly tell their victims something akin to the following:

“If you leave me, who is going to want you?” This is especially true when the couple has children. The victims often believe that they would face a formidable hurdle in re-entering the dating pool with children.

It is not uncommon for battered women to express the belief that their abuser is the only man they could love, thus se­verely limiting their opportunities to discover new, more supportive relationships. One woman said: He’s all I’ve got.

 6The appeal to higher loyalties: for the sake of some higher commitment, either religious or traditional.The Christian belief that women should serve their husbands as men serve God is invoked as a rationalization to endure a husband’s violence for later rewards in the afterlife.


When bat­tered women reject prior rationalizations and be­gin to view themselves as true victims of abuse, the victimization process begins to unravel.

  1. A change in the level of violence: Women who suddenly realize that battering may be fatal may reject rationalizations in order to save their lives.

  2. A change in resources: The emergence of safe homes or shelters since 1970 has produced a new resource for battered women.

  3. A change in the relationship: periods of remorse and solicitude. (often times called “Hearts and Flowers”)

Such phases deepen the emotional bonds, and make rejection of an abuser more difficult. But as battering progresses, periods of remorse may shorten, or disappear, eliminating the basis for maintaining a positive outlook on the marriage.

 4. Despair: When hope is destroyed and replaced by despair, rationalizations of violence may give way to the recognition of victimization.

 5. A change in the visibility of violence: If violence does occur in the pres­ence of others, it may trigger a reinterpretation process.

 6. External definitions of the relationship: How others respond to a battered woman’s situation is critical. The closer the relationship of others, the more significant their response is to a woman’s perception of the situation.



The emotional career of battered women con­sists of movement from




to fear and despair;

to anger, exhilaration;

and confusion.

Women who escape violent relation­ships must deal with strong, sometimes conflict­ing, feelings in attempting to build new lives for themselves free of violence. The kind of response women receive when they seek help largely deter­mines the effects these feelings have on subse­quent decisions.



pete padilla sociology 


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